Sunday, 4 November 2007

Timing - that's the secret

I have already mentioned that my parents, God bless 'em, are strangers to the distinct worlds of technology and international travel. This is perhaps not unexpected - they are both in their seventies, after all.

My dad, for instance, used to tell us about food rationing during and after World War 2. About how you couldn't get sweets in the shops until the 1950s. And that he was 13 before he saw his first banana - an introduction that brought genuine shock to the austere streets of a post-war Birmingham. Now, I'm not sure if this story was told to us, as young kids, as part of the whole "Kids these days, you lot don't know you're born" conversation that all parents are duty-bound to have with their offspring. Not having lived through the aftermath of a global war, I'll have to take it on trust.

It's against this backdrop that my parents were brought up; they were married in 1959 and went full tilt into the whole "get your head down, work hard and raise a family" thing. Even given the growth in consumerism rife in the sixties and seventies, the dual concepts of gadgets and jet-setting remain alien to them pretty much to this day.

I'll give you an example. In 1995 I bought my first mobile phone. It was the size and weight of an engineering housebrick, and about as advanced:
But nevertheless, it was (relatively speaking), a wonder of the modern age. I brought it home in triumph - I was still living with my parents at the time - and proudly displayed it to my awe-struck folks.

"That's nice dear," said my mother, "I suppose we need to put up an aerial on the roof for you, don't we?"

I've already mentioned that brother no. 1 and his wife-to-be are in Las Vegas as we speak, in preparation for their upcoming wedding on November 5th. They called my mother from the hotel when they arrived (that's another family tradition; it doesn't matter how old we three brothers are, when travelling we always call Mom when we get there).

Since then they've sent several text messages to her - in the years since 1995 mobile phones have advanced to the point where my mother can use them - and the thought of a message coming out of the ether from thousands of miles away is blowing her mind.

I called her today - they're coming over to view the marriage on Monday and I needed to sort out some details.

Me: "Have they mentioned the time difference between Las Vegas and the UK?"
Mother: "Yes, they have."
Me: "What is it?"
Mother: "I think it's five o'clock."
Me: "What do you mean?"
Mother: "I'm not sure. Does 'five o'clock' not sound right, then?"
Me: "Not unless it's always five o'clock in Las Vegas, no. Don't worry, I'll find out the time difference and call you back."

I now believe the time difference from Vegas to GMT to be eight hours. But that's not the point. I love the fact that my mother used to think I'd need an auxiliary aerial on the roof to be able to use a mobile phone. It's quite wonderful that she looks at international time zones in a completely existential way.

When people stop thinking like my mother, the world will truly be a poorer place.

2 comments:

Tom said...

My parents also, are in their seventies and while we try very, very hard to drag them kicking and screaming into the new millenium, they don't seem to want to get it. I'm not sure if they have a choice in the matter or not, but if they do, they don't want the new technology. They have a cell phone, they have satellite TV, and they have 2, count em, 2 computers. Both of them are slower than molasses in January, but they have them.
We finally got them interested in DVDs and bought them a new flat screen TV.
They get upset when, like today, the pastor announced that the church would be making some changes in the way they do things. Not like they would be sacrificing goats or anything, but my mother almost cried. I don't think they like change much.

Rebecca said...

Did you know the casinos in Las Vegas (or any other casino in Nevada) do not have clocks or any other indications what time it is on the gambling floor? So, technically, it doesn't matter what time it is in Vegas per se, because it's always time to lose your hard-earned money to the house!

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